ZALMAY KHALILZAD, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN RECONCILIATION
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020
MS ORTAGUS: Thanks a lot. Thanks, everybody, for becoming a member of. I apologize. I do know that we gave you final minute discover about this name, however as you’ll be able to think about, there are a selection of scheduling points that we’ve got up within the air. And we needed to ensure undoubtedly get Zal with all of you to type of set the stage for what to anticipate tomorrow in Doha. So it appears like a truly good variety of you have been nonetheless capable of dial in regardless of the – regardless of the final minute discover, so thanks – thanks a lot for doing it.
I feel it’s extremely poignant that we’re having the decision this morning on the morning of 9/11. In all probability like lots of you, I’ve had my tv on watching the day of remembrance and the names known as. And it’s simply I feel a reminder to all of us on the State Division how severe what we’re doing is and the way necessary it’s to America’s historical past on 9/11 and to our future.
So simply to remind all people of some housekeeping particulars: This name is on the document, however the contents of the decision are embargoed till the top of the decision. I do know plenty of you’ll have questions. And so only a reminder which you could even get within the queue now when you’d like by dialing one after which zero. Nevertheless, we’d respectfully ask since we’ve got – I feel we’ve bought over 70 folks on the decision already. To ensure that us to get to as lots of your colleagues as attainable, when you may attempt to hold it to at least one query and to be succinct simply so we are able to attempt to take as many questions as attainable as a result of Zal does have restricted time.
So on that be aware we’re lucky to have Ambassador Khalilzad as we speak on the road to speak in regards to the launch of the Afghanistan peace negotiations which can kick off in Doha tomorrow. And I feel all of you noticed that the President introduced yesterday afternoon in his press convention that Secretary Pompeo is headed over. And he’s within the air as we converse.
Because the Secretary has stated, Afghans will quickly be sitting on the desk collectively to debate easy methods to ship what the Afghan individuals are demanding: a reconciled Afghanistan with a authorities that displays the nation and that isn’t at conflict. We all know that is just the start of a protracted and difficult course of, however we’re happy to have arrived at this historic second and to have an settlement in place that ensures America is rarely once more threatened by worldwide terrorists from Afghan soil. I’m now going to show it over to my expensive pal Zal who I’m certain all of you might be anxious to listen to from. Zal, go forward.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Nicely, thanks very a lot, Morgan. Good morning or good afternoon, everybody. I’m delighted to be with you. Tomorrow clearly as Morgan stated is a momentous day for Afghanistan.
For the primary time in 40 years, Afghans will sit collectively, the federal government delegation that features people who find themselves not a part of the federal government in addition to 4 very distinguished ladies, civil society, political teams might be sitting with an authoritative Taliban delegation to debate and hopefully come to an settlement on a political roadmap to finish the protracted conflict that Afghanistan has had. The folks of Afghanistan demand an finish to the conflict. We help them in that effort. And this assembly tomorrow is among the key necessities, a product of the U.S.-Taliban settlement which was signed on February twenty ninth.
That settlement had three different components, one which is a timetable for phased and condition-based U.S. withdrawal of forces; two, a dedication by the Taliban that they won’t permit terrorist teams, together with al-Qaida, to threaten the USA, U.S. allies from the territories that they management and in the event that they turned a part of a future authorities that dedication will proceed; and the opposite key half was a complete formal ceasefire. That might be one of many topics of the negotiations between the 2 sides.
On that day we additionally had a declaration – joint declaration with the Afghan Authorities the place the Afghan Authorities supported these components that I described, that means that Afghanistan, the territory that the federal government controls and a post-peace Afghanistan, wouldn’t permit terrorists akin to al-Qaida to threaten the USA, and that – and our allies, and that we anticipate to have an excellent and enduring relationship with Afghanistan.
We additionally want to make clear that these negotiations are an necessary achievement however that there are difficulties, important challenges on the way in which to reaching settlement. This can be a take a look at for either side, for the Taliban and the federal government. Can they attain an settlement regardless of variations, by way of their visions for the way forward for Afghanistan? We’re ready to help if our help is required, however it is a new part within the diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan. Now we’re coming into a course of that’s Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. There might be no mediator and no facilitator when Afghans meet with one another. They are going to be speaking to one another. The secretariat of the convention can even be carried out, that operate, by the Afghans from the 2 sides.
And with that, I’m – I’d wish to cease and to reply to your questions and to your feedback. Thanks.
MS ORTAGUS: Great, thanks. Only a reminder to all people, to dial 1 and 0 to get into the query queue. No shock, first up in my queue is somebody who’s lined this for a very long time: Kim Dozier, TIME Journal.
QUESTION: Thanks a lot. Ambassador Khalilzad, are you able to inform us how the U.S. satisfied the Afghan Authorities to launch prisoners convicted of lethal assaults on Australian and on French residents or troops, in opposition to Australian and French objections? And likewise a standing replace on Navy veteran Mark Frerichs kidnapped by the Taliban and lacking American Paul Overby. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: As – thanks. As a part of our settlement with the Taliban, there was a dedication to assist launch – or change, truly – as much as 5,000 Taliban imprisoned from Afghan jails – and Afghanistan has greater than 13,000, or had greater than 13,000 prisoners in Taliban prisons at the moment – and that the Taliban have been going to launch as much as 1,000 Afghan Authorities prisoners. And clearly these prisoners that have been held by the Afghan Authorities, a few of them have dedicated violence in opposition to worldwide forces which were in Afghanistan, however the joint assertion clarifies that as a confidence-building measure with a view to obtain an ideal goal, which is begin the peace course of with the important thing a part of which is intra-Afghan negotiations, that tough choices needed to be made, and the discharge of prisoners was one such tough choice.
I do know that none of us are joyful in regards to the launch of prisoners that dedicated violence or – in opposition to our forces, however we wish to hold the large image in thoughts, sad as we’re. However we’re hopeful that that step, the beginning of intra-Afghan negotiations, can result in the top within the conflict and that Afghanistan by no means once more turns into a risk to any of us. And I feel that logic was compelling, and not one of the nations which can be involved have made this as a difficulty that it will have an effect on relations with Afghanistan. They don’t prefer it, however on the identical time they perceive that this was an Afghan choice – a choice that was tough, however crucial, they felt ultimately, to start out intra-Afghan negotiation and to provide peace an opportunity.
MS ORTAGUS: Nice, thanks. Thanks, Kim. We’ve bought all of the heavy hitters on the road as we speak, Zal. We’ve bought Elise Labott, who’s now with SiriusXM, up subsequent.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Hello.
MS ORTAGUS: Elise? Elise Labott?
QUESTION: Are you able to hear —
MS ORTAGUS: Obtained it. Sure, we are able to hear you now.
QUESTION: Are you able to hear me? Oh, sorry. Thanks a lot, Ambassador. Actually recognize you doing the decision. I’d wish to ask you in regards to the assassination try on Amrullah Saleh, the vice chairman, the opposite day. And also you’ve seen that these focused killings have risen though we’ve seen a drop in large-scale assaults. The federal government blames the violence on perhaps not Taliban correct however all these navy teams linked to the Taliban, and saying that the Taliban is serving form of as an umbrella group to make use of violence as leverage on the negotiating desk. And I used to be questioning when you may form of increase on this concept and what you consider though the focused assaults – though the large-scale assaults on civilians are dropping, they are surely concentrating on lots of officers.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Yeah, effectively, we’ve condemned the assault on Mr. Saleh, however there are spoilers who don’t need the peace course of to happen or to go ahead, and there are individuals who choose the established order to a peace settlement. There are individuals who choose the U.S. to stay entangled in a battle in Afghanistan. And plenty of gamers are dangerous and a few are at conflict additionally not solely with the federal government however they’re at conflict with the Talibs as effectively. One such group is Daesh, and Daesh has been chargeable for various violence in Afghanistan and it doesn’t need the peace course of to go ahead. The Talibs are combating Daesh in addition to the –ISIS, in addition to the Afghan Authorities, in addition to the coalition forces.
With regard to the particular assault in opposition to Mr. Saleh, we have no idea who was – at this level who did it or that it was a terrorist group or some inner faction. It’s too early to inform. However generically I can say there a fairly plenty of gamers. If there may be peace between the Taliban and the federal government, I feel Afghanistan might be in a stronger place to take care of the smaller teams which can be a part of the fact of Afghanistan. And with the 2 at conflict, that gives a chance for a terrorist group akin to Daesh. Thanks.
QUESTION: So that you don’t imagine that these teams are form of – that the Taliban is utilizing these teams for leverage within the talks? You don’t assume that?
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: As I stated, for instance, one of many most important teams that has been chargeable for a few of the most vital violence in Afghanistan, for instance the assaults in opposition to the maternity hospital or a few of the different assaults, has been the ISIS group in Afghanistan. And that’s a gaggle that the Talibs are combating in addition to they’ve finished a few of the heavy lifting within the battle in opposition to Daesh in Afghanistan, and the federal government is combating it too. And so I – as I stated, we don’t find out about this particular assault, however there might be plenty of completely different gamers or – that one may —
MS ORTAGUS: Nice. Okay, Zal, can we nonetheless have you ever? It sounded prefer it lower out for a second. Zal, can we nonetheless have you ever? Zal?
I’m going to maintain going with the questions and hope that he’s on. Laura Seligman from Politico. Laura from Politico. Might we —
QUESTION: Whats up. Thanks. Are you able to hear me?
MS ORTAGUS: Nice, go forward.
QUESTION: Yeah, I needed to ask the ambassador if he can be prepared to remain a number of months below a possible Biden administration.
MS ORTAGUS: Zal?
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Yeah, I’m again on.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. You again on? Are you able to hear us?
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Sure.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. You had a query from Laura from Politico. Laura, would you wish to ask it once more?
QUESTION: Certain, yeah. I simply needed to ask if the ambassador if he’d be prepared to remain extra months if – within the case of a presidential transition if a Biden administration is available in.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Nicely, that’s untimely to reply to that. I imagine that we nonetheless have a few months. I’m hoping that the negotiations will make some progress, however a choice must be made after elections as to what occurs. However I’m dedicated to staying no less than till the elections.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, nice. I wish to apologize if I screw up the pronunciation of your identify, however we’ve got Muath – M-u-a-t-h – Alamri.
QUESTION: Sure, Muath Alamri, no drawback. Good morning, Ambassador and all people. I’ve a query. In accordance with the settlement with the Taliban, the U.S. ought to revoke some sanction on Taliban members. And now, do you assume this – it’s time to revoke these sanctions? And when you may elaborate extra in regards to the challenges that you just had confronted if you dealt between the Afghan Authorities and Taliban. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Nicely, the settlement has a particular timeline for when the reconsideration of sanctions on the Taliban begins, and that’s when intra-Afghan negotiations get began. We’re dedicated to the phrases of the settlement, and the settlement additionally specifies the circumstances, the beginning of which is the intra-Afghan negotiations. As to easy methods to – the challenges to get to this part, after all the prisoners was one of many largest challenges that was lastly overcome, however there have been others as effectively, however I’d level to the prisoners because the principal problem.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, thanks. I imagine we’ve got Peter Loewi up subsequent within the queue. Peter Loewi.
QUESTION: Sure, are you able to hear me?
MS ORTAGUS: We will hear you.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Sure.
QUESTION: Nice, thanks, Ambassador. I used to be questioning in regards to the position of the troop drawdown within the negotiations and the way quickly we anticipate to listen to an announcement about that.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Nicely, as I discussed earlier than, the settlement with the Taliban and the joint declaration with the federal government has a condition-based phased discount or withdrawal of our forces – that not contains solely U.S. but in addition coalition and NATO allies – and we’re proper now in Part 2. Part 1 bought us to eight,600. Part 2 will get us to round 4,500 by the form of mid-October to mid-November timeframe, and we’re in that part. Thanks.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Up subsequent, we’ve bought Voice of America within the queue. Mirwis Rahmani.
QUESTION: Sure, Mirwis Rahmani.
MS ORTAGUS: Go forward.
QUESTION: Are you able to hear me?
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Sure.
MS ORTAGUS: We will hear you.
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks, Ambassador Khalilzad, for this name. I had a query in regards to the rights of girl in Afghanistan. As you recognize, Taliban have been obscure of their statements and feedback concerning preserving these rights, and the U.S. as effectively has not been extra vocal about preserving these rights throughout these peace talks. So my query is: Will the lady rights in Afghanistan be preserved throughout these peace talks?
The query quantity two is: What ensures Taliban has supplied that they’ll sever their hyperlinks with terrorist organizations? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Thanks. On the ladies’s rights, we help clearly ladies’s rights. That’s the second-most necessary problem for us after terrorism, and we encourage that ladies take part within the negotiations. And as I stated, 4 ladies are a part of the Islamic Republic negotiations crew. I anticipate them to be totally ready to defend their rights. The way forward for Afghanistan is clearly as much as the Afghans to determine, however we want to see an Afghanistan that’s sovereign, that’s unified, that’s democratic. And the USA will determine its insurance policies or its relations with Afghanistan based mostly on the selections and agreements that Afghanistan makes and the implementation of these agreements.
With regard to your second query on Taliban commitments with regard to terrorism, they’ve made these commitments and our actions are linked, by way of additional discount of forces, to the actions or the implementation of the commitments that they’ve made. And a key dedication that’s of nice – is of nice significance provided that we’re speaking on today which is the anniversary of 9/11 – I personally personally was within the White Home when the – in a gathering within the Scenario Room when the assaults of 9/11 turned actual, had an enormous impact on our nation, and personally on myself, on the trajectory of what I’ve finished since then. And subsequently, we are not looking for Afghanistan ever to develop into a platform to threaten the homeland just like the one which we confronted on that dastardly day.
So that’s clearly probably the most severe problem for us. We are going to take motion as crucial that that goal that I described is achieved and is – that achievement is maintained. Thanks.
MS ORTAGUS: Thanks. So sadly, I’ve to name final query. I apologize, however I’ve bought to get Zal on a name that begins at 11:00 that he’s in all probability going to be late for. So one final query from Spencer Ackerman, Every day Beast.
QUESTION: Hello. Thanks very a lot for doing this name. While you say this course of will now be completely Afghan-led – no mediator, no facilitator, they’ll be speaking to us – are you able to say a little bit about what finally the U.S. position throughout this part might be and what, if something, the Afghans have expressed to you about – that’s, the Afghan Authorities – about what they need and don’t need the U.S. position to be throughout this part?
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Okay. We’ll be ready to assist when our assist is required. We’ll clearly be monitoring; we’ll be participating both sides. And we’re superb at – clearly, that’s certainly one of our comparative benefits. We expect all the issues – there could be a answer if the desire is there. If bridging formulation are wanted, then we’ll have to consider it. We’ll contemplate; we’ll assist.
However that is an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned course of, and in the event that they don’t want our assist, that might be superb. That might be – it will likely be encouraging, however that is necessary. It’s necessary clearly for Afghanistan. It’s necessary for the area; it’s necessary for the world. It’s necessary for the USA. So we’re prepared – we’re prepared to assist, however the course of begins with Afghans speaking to one another, and after the opening ceremony tomorrow the 2 groups will meet to determine on how they’ll proceed. And that’s the way in which it must be and that’s the way in which it’s going to be hopefully. Thanks.
MS ORTAGUS: Nicely, thanks, all people. Once more, apologies for the last-minute discover however I’m very glad that so lots of you have been capable of be on the decision, and also you’ll be listening to extra from us quickly. And thanks on your questions and on your time. Goodbye.